JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

The code of writers (and such)

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Among journalists, there exists an unofficial code. Actually, scratch that. There exists an understanding.

Writing can be hard. Daunting. You’re in the flow, you’re out of the flow. Things go well, things go crappy. Phrases come easily, phrases don’t come at all. We struggled with blocks, distractions, locks. Sometimes we have 20 minutes to write 1,000 words in a noisy press box … and it’s cake. Other times we have four days to write 500 words on Chipper Jones … and it’s torture. Anyone who has done this for more than a few months probably gets what I’m saying. Being a writer is blissful pain. That’s how I describe it. Blissful pain.

Anyhow, today I received an e-mail from a fellow journalist in regards to my Brett Favre column that ran on SI.com. (Here’s the link to the piece). This is what he wrote:

Jeff,

A few points re your Favre Viewpoint piece on SI.com. Before I start I’ll preface this by saying I’m a journalist who’s interviewed Troy Aikman, Wayne Gretzky, Lewis Hamilton and other sports notables. So maybe take this as constructive criticism. Or don’t, it’s up to you.

First, you write that Farve is like other star athletes who think they “walked on water” just because they could “throw/hit a ball really hard.”

A statement like this doesn’t really belong on SI.com, now does it? It’s the same lame argument used by people who don’t understand sports. Physical ability, raw talent, and competitive drive are really all any athlete has–or can hope to have–and Favre is a legend because he has more of each than probably any quarterback alive today. To you and my grandmother, he just throws a ball “really hard.”

Oh, and before I get to point No. 2, “walked on water” is a tired cliche. And don’t even get me started on “peeps.” Also, Lance Armstrong doesn’t ride a Huffy, but I understand you were going for irony. Good job there, I guess.

Second, the position you take on Favre is predictable and boring. I’m pretty sure I yawned twice while reading your piece. I know I’ll never get that three minutes of my life back, and it makes me kind of sad.

Third, you miss what’s really going on here. Farve is creating incredible drama for the upcoming season by preparing to take on his former team as the leader of a hated division rival. He’s no Benedict Arnold, as you imply. He’s mother-fucking George Washington in a red coat.

I won’t use his name, because it wouldn’t be cool. However, his letter—in my opinion—violates … something.

To begin with, he’s right. “Walked on water” is a cliche. A lame one. However, when you have, literally, 40 minutes to formulate an opinion and write a piece, things tend to slip by sometimes. It happens to absolutely everyone. Everyone. I assure you, were I to take the time to scan the works of Steve Rushin or Jon Wertheim or E.M. Swift or Grant Wahl or … anyone, I’d find the random misplaced cliche. We’re only human.

Second, I will never understand e-mails like this. You’re a journalist, not a fan—do you really care so much about the issue that you need to write a peer a snarky e-mail? And the friggin’ smugness of it all. Insufferable.

I know … I know—not a big deal. I can deal with letters from readers (usually). But other journalists … meh.

Plus, I looked up his work. To be polite, this probably wasn’t the guy to be writing such a note. Oh, well.